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Airfare hike to outlive festive season, say operators

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Alexandre de Juniac

Low capacity, demand surplus hit local airlines
• When people travel, the local economy grows, IATA insists

Airline operators have said the current fare hike would outlive the coming festivities.

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Admitting that the increase was not arbitrary, the players noted that a surplus in demand that typically follows celebrations and prevailing shortage of fleet would naturally raise the price.

They expressed concern that there would not be corresponding airlines to address the traffic, as more than half of the regular fleet are either due for maintenance or stuck overseas on account of paucity of funds.

The implication, according to travel experts, is more stress for flyers, as many might opt for the journey by road.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said the local economy could only grow when people move around.

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Its Director-General, Alexandre de Juniac, called on governments to include market stimulation measures in their bailouts to keep aviation financially viable.

The Guardian recently reported a massive spike in local tickets. Market survey at the weekend showed that charges remained at an average of 100 per cent high, and even more in some establishments.

For instance, an Arik Air Lagos-Port Harcourt economy one-way ticket on Friday was N75, 000. Azman Air sold a similar ticket on Lagos-Kano for N95, 000, representing a 200 per cent increase.

On average, a future flight of about seven days away now costs between N50, 000 and N60, 000 for the one-way economy. Return tickets range from N100, 000 to N120, 000.

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Travellers heading for the East from Lagos or Abuja now pay an average of N60, 000 for one-way, subject to flight and seat availability.

Chief operating officer of one of the airlines told The Guardian yesterday that the operators were already feeling the traffic pressure typical of the festive season, but “we have no plans to deploy.”

He added: “In my own operations, we are supposed to have seven aircraft. Three are in operation, two are out on maintenance, and two on the ground. Because there is no forex at an affordable rate of N380/$, the two that are away have not returned. So, we can only manage what we have. Where we did five frequencies a day, it has reduced to two or three, so as to accommodate other routes.

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“I am aware that is the case across the operating airlines, and there are no chances of things improving anytime soon. Nothing has come to airlines from the government by way of support. So, we are most likely to continue into the new year and the first quarter of 2021. It is bad that we have pushed air travel beyond the reach of average and middle-class Nigerians. But it is completely beyond the operators.”

Managing Director of Aero Contractor, Ado Sanusi, said it was not the case that airlines raised fares, but for the forces of demand and supply playing out.

“The airlines have seen that the seats they put in the market are gone within an hour. This practice of closing the lower bucket is done everywhere in the world. It is called revenue management,” he added.

Media and Communications Manager, Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, advised travellers to make early bookings – at least, a month ahead.

He observed that the hike was not uniform, as few airlines still sell at an average of N35, 000 to N40, 000 for future flights.

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